Rabbi Dov Lior
Photo: Noam Moskowitz
Rabbis are not above the law. This is the basic assumption that binds anyone who endorses a Jewish and democratic state; anyone who seeks our continued existence, despite the disagreements. There are no grey areas here – in this context, democracy is the absolute truth. The majority, not the rabbi, decides under the rule of law, as was recently noted in a different context.
As opposed to the foolish bill that called for granting immunity to rabbis thanks to their halachic standing, it is precisely the rabbis, more than anyone else, who must be scrutinized.
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Their importance as religious leaders lies in the personal example they provide, and not in them being above the people. When a rabbi is summoned for interrogation, he should report. The law of the government takes precedence, Judaism ruled back in the Talmud era. That’s true for everyone – academicians, authors and politicians. Even if the govenrment’s decisions are controversial.
After saying this, we should ask questions about the emergence of this affair. How did an endorsement of a dubious Jewish Law book turn into a reason for arresting Rabbi Dov Lior? We need to talk about the charge here.
At this time, the State of Israel conveys a dual, confusing message in respect to incitement. On the one hand, since the Rabin murder any delusional statement by rightist activists is perceived as the crossing of a red line. Organizations are being outlawed, singers who spoke out bluntly are boycotted, and racist Halacha books are (justifiably) removed from the shelves.
What about Muslim clerics?
On the other hand, in the same breath the State of Israel shows incredible tolerance in respect to different kind of incitement. A distinguished professor who called for harming settlers is being bluntly ignored, a radio host who broadcasts hatred is forgiven, and most of all, a blind eye is being turned to hundreds of Muslim clerics who write and speak hatred openly under guise of the Jewish State’s mosques.
The former, members of the radical Right, are a danger to democracy, a model for the toughness of Israeli law and the decisiveness of prosecutors towards those who fail to understand the limits of freedom of expression. The latter, on the other hand, are perceived as a necessary evil through some twisted thinking, a handful of people that pose no harm at best, or in the case of Arab leaders, people who better be left alone for reasons of sensitivity.
And when there is no uniform language and uniform actions towards inciters, whoever they may be, it’s hard to explain to the dozens of youngsters who protested in Jerusalem Monday how wrong they are.
If officials decided that Rabbi Dov Lior is suspected of incitement, he should be probed. There are no class differences before the law. However, now that prosecutors set the bar, they must prove that there are also no religious and political differences in preventing incitement.
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